August is Festival Time! – keeping an eye on things with Topsail’s MD – Mark Tower

September 7th, 2009 by Guy

Each year as the frenzy of the London hospitality season dies away at the end of July (perhaps not quite so frenzied this year) it always works out quite well for us at Topsail. As people dash off for holidays, near and far, the marine event and festival season gets well and truly into swing giving the weary City worker the perfect excuse for the marine ‘staycation’ (I can’t believe I used that word); if your family and/or partner are into it. In our case Cowes Week and the Belfast Tall Ships’ port visit came over the horizon to keep us going through the holiday month.

Cowes Week 2009

I won’t lie to you, Cowes was decidedly more subdued this year on the hospitality front, but we still had enough work to bring in the wonderful Tall Ship ‘Atlantis’ and the highlight of the week was when the beautiful, yes this is the only word to describe this piece of craftsmanship, Orient Express Pullman glided into the railway platforms behind the Cunard berths in Southampton Docks and we took a healthy compliment of ‘luxury train heads’ out into the maritime carnival that is Cowes Week. Incidentally, we pick Atlantis not just because she is a superb looker of a ship, but also because the crew and staff are fantastic. Charming, attentive and courteous they get on perfectly with the guests and the Topsail management team find them some of the easiest sailors to work with across the Tall Ship’s or indeed any other fleet.

Food was provided through our own Riverside Food & Drink operation and was very well received – menus specially formulated for the marine environment and I defy any corporate hospitality operation at Cowes to better it for quality, originality and practicality in the marine environment. A job well done, having become the centre of attention in the Solent, the happy train load of newly-created ‘luxury Tall Ship heads’ drifted in 1930’s art deco comfort back towards London after a grand day out. And they’ve booked again for 2010 already – can’t think of a better result!

Guests enjoying a beer in BelfastTall Ship 'Atlantis'

Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge and Belfast Maritime Festival

Hot on the heels of Cowes came the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge and Belfast Maritime Festival. As is the way with big events we had been campaigning and planning on this one for more than a year. From the success of Liverpool Tall Ships through the Tall Ships Conference in Halifax (Can.) to Belfast’s great day of opening in mid-August ’09. We had staked a lot on this one, as had the city and harbour organisers and the ships racing across the ocean towards us. And it all turned out very well indeed. It’s all about planning and marine event planning is complex – a lot of boxes have to be ticked. For us it was a green field site operation getting to know the people from the harbour, city events dept, caterers and coastguards to name but a few. Renewing old acquaintances amongst the ships and trying to do as much for our customers as the grand plan would allow and that included throwing into the mix unexpected crew changeovers, daily refrigerated van access in a very busy site, firework exclusion zones and commercial shipping movements – and that’s before we started on the hospitality detail – it’s a long story.

In short, the people we worked with over there were fantastic: warm, generous with their time and advice and allowed us to deliver, in my opinion, some of the best work we have ever done. I was proud of our team and pleased to be involved in such a professionally organised event. Full marks and thanks to the event organisers and the the business of Belfast, the people of Belfast and the many more visitors who turned out big time for what was – from the Tall Ships arrival to the grand finale of the Parade of Sail – a fantastic, intense (and sales-target-breaking) experience………


Sarah testing the microphone!Musicians at Belfast

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